Tibetan man released after 5-year sentence for possessing photo of Dalai Lama

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By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, APR 9: A Tibetan resident of Ngaba was released after his 5-year sentence for the possession of photos of Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a festival in 2015. Sonam Dhargye, a shopkeeper, was released on Saturday and has returned to his family in Sowa Village, Ngaba after serving his sentence.

“Outwardly he looks to be fine. But his family have decided to take him to the doctors for a thorough physical check-up,” an anonymous source told RFA. It is unknown if he had any legal representation during his prosecution.

He was detained by Chinese officials in April 2015 after he attended the Monlam festival at Ngatoe Gongma Monastery carrying a blue religious flag with a world peace symbol attached with an 8×10 inch colour photo of the Tibetan leader. “At the end of April that year, he went to Ngaba County to buy merchandise for his shop. It was there the Chinese police took him into custody at the market in Ngaba County and sentenced him for five years,” said the source.

Many similar cases of arrests and detention of Tibetans have emerged over the years where Chinese officials have emphasised to encourage denunciation of the Tibetan religious figures in Tibetan communities. In 2017, Gomar Choephel (Rebgong County) was sentenced to two years, and Gendun (Sershul County) was detained for possession of photos of the Dalai Lama.

These cases, many say, point to aggressive intervention of the state in supressing religious rights in Occupied-Tibet. The ban on the photograph of the Dalai Lama is put into action sporadically and unevenly across the Tibetan areas over the years by the colonial regime.

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